Artwork or advertising? Mural sparks downtown debate - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Artwork or advertising? Mural sparks downtown debate

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Koch's Bakery. Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com Koch's Bakery. Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com
Koch's Bakery before the mural was painted. Koch's Bakery before the mural was painted.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Is it an illegal advertisement or merely a mural?

A small business owner on the Southside says the City of Chattanooga is being unreasonable in enforcing an ordinance.

Barbara Davis has owned Koch’s Bakery on 20th and Broad Streets for 31 years. She also owns an adjoining parking lot and empty building used for storage. For years, that building has been victim to graffiti vandals. Davis called the building an “eyesore” and decided to take action. Davis paid a mural artist $11,000 to paint a doughnut mural on the building.

"I've wanted to do this for a long time. I feel like this building needed something pretty on it,” Barbara Davis said. "I thought since the city is doing so much for Chattanooga, on the Southside and all, this would be an improvement for this wall and something nice for people to see. And that was why I did it.”

Now the mural is complete.

And now the city is calling for its removal.

"I just wanted a beautiful mural painted on this wall,” Davis said. “I didn't realize I was doing anything wrong, that was not my intention.”

The city says it illegal advertising.

“Advertisement doesn’t necessarily have to be words. It can be a depiction of what you’re marketing or selling,” said Director of the Land Development Office Gary Hilbert.

Gary Hilbert with the city’s Land Development Office oversees sign enforcement. One of his inspectors told Davis this week that she didn’t have a permit and was in violation of the sign code.

Hilbert couldn’t talk specifics about Koch’s Bakery because it is an active investigation but he said Davis can always appeal and that his office will work with her on making corrections.

"Murals are exempt but if you wanted to have a sign painted on your building, an advertisement of some type that shows products that you are selling... That becomes an advertisement and then it becomes limited to 20 percent of the area of your building face,” Hilbert said.

Davis said she didn’t know she was not in compliance with city code and hopes the two parties can reach an agreement for her “mural” to stay.

"I didn't realize that I needed to get permission from the city because it's not signage it's art,” Davis said.

Hilbert said his office will meet with Davis later this week to discuss options and how she can make corrections.

Koch's Bakery isn't the first business to discover the blurred lines between artwork and advertisement. Hilbert said Brewhaus went through a similar experience with painted beer mugs on the North Shore building.


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